Los Angeles Philharmonic Offers Live HD Screenings. How will regional orchestras compete?

live HD concerts versus local orchestras

Los Angeles Philharmonic Offers Live HD Screenings - NYTimes.com.

The times they are a changin'. How will regional orchestras compete?

The days of numerous live performances by live orchestras in local concert halls may be coming to an end. As more top level orchestras broadcast live HD in theaters, small orchestras will feel even more crunched for audiences.

Although I love a live orchestral performance, I prefer to hear the best orchestras in the best halls. Given a choice, I'd probably opt for the HD broadcast of a great orchestra over a local performance in the flesh. Why? More bang for my buck. Easier access, too.

Following on the heels of the Metropolitan Opera’s HD screenings, the first of three Los Angeles Philharmonic broadcasts featured Gustavo Dudamel, the orchestra’s dynamic and telegenic young music director. The performance was broadcast to more than 450 theaters in the United States and Canada.

During orchestral concerts in traditional halls, many musicians are often hidden from view, heard but not seen until singled out by the conductor for a solo bow. But woodwind and brass players may have to get used to close-ups if live HD broadcasts become popular.

The most rewarding visual aspect of Sunday’s broadcast was the chance to observe Mr. Dudamel at close range. In most halls the audience stares at the conductor’s back while he or she communes in secret with the musicians.

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7 comments for “Los Angeles Philharmonic Offers Live HD Screenings. How will regional orchestras compete?

  1. January 18, 2011 at

    First, let me say that if I can get to an actual live concert it’s my preference. However, most of those concerts are chamber performances rather than by orchestras. Mostly this is a matter of scheduling.

    Now – recently I purchased a subscription to the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall and I have to tell you I’m impressed. Not only do they have live concerts, but they also have an archive of previous performances. Is the quality of the experience the same? No. Does that make it bad? No. I think a reasonable person should be able to modulate their expectations relative to the manner in which they experience a performance. Put simply, I know that my living room is not the same as a concert hall in Berlin, New York, LA, etc…

    At the same time, David makes a good point about people who don’t routinely go to performances. A possible solution would be to schedule a regional performance of music by similar composers close to the time of one of these streaming performances. That would offer an opportunity to engage, educate, and draw in the community.

  2. mrG
    January 15, 2011 at

    as will come as no surprise to those who know my prior posts and comments, let me say this is the most cockamamie idea I have heard in a long time. this is absurdity to the max and I can’t wait to see the director heads roll in the aftermath of the total fiasco this will turn out to be. How far can one miss the point and still have enough ecological validity to get out of bed in the morning? I mean really.

    In our local town, where our local orchestra is in danger like any other, the word on the street says the situation arose from abandoning their cultural duty as local healers. It isn’t about trained monkeys and opulent orchestrations, it’s about the anthropological necessity of the musical event. Theatre people in our town are talking about starting up a pit orchestra that, while it would be skeletal and while the current multi-keyboard accompanist is truly a wonderful player and a wonderful person, there is SOMETHING really quite essential in the live music experience that supercedes the ‘correctness’ of relaying the score.

    So count me among the skeptics here, and mark my words, I give the plan 2 years, 3 at the max, before it falls flat on its face. Even if they were to create a vibrant 3D rendering of the orchestra in miniture upon the stage before (and what, dare I ask, could be more boring to watch than 108 people all dressed the same wiggling their arms in consort?) it would still fall absolutely flat because it makes no connection.

    • January 16, 2011 at

      Believe it or not, I’m with you. However, just like elections are not just about agreeing with someone, it’s the vote that ends up counting. The Met has made great strides in the HD broadcast field and has succeeded. You must remember that this was the very first attempt by the LA Phil, and the first ever attempt by any US orchestra. It will get much better.

  3. January 14, 2011 at

    I think this concern is a bit over stated. I attended the event and wrote a review of it, so I can say with confidence that if on likes to hear orchestra’s in the best halls, the LA Phil LIVE series will leave you unsatisfied. One does not hear the hall nor even really experience it visually in the movie theater.

    As I see it, it is a musical experience unto itself that doesn’t compete with truly live (i.e. in person) performances any more than concert DVDs do. The NY Times review above highlights this when it points out the cool factor of the close views of Dudamel. Notice, the reviewer isn’t citing anything musical here.

    The only scenario I can imagine in which I would choose on of these broadcasts over a real concert is one in which the concert I’m foregoing is one by an orchestra that is no good in the first place. And in that case, it’s not the broadcast that’s the threat, but the poor orchestra itself.

    I can certainly see how one might perceive the LA Phil LIVE program to be a threat to regional orchestras. I’m not sure i you saw it, David, but if not I think experience with it might assuage your concerns. Even the programmers seem to acknowledge the inadequacy of the broadcast as they had the host point out at the end that audience members should seek out the “real thing” in their hometowns.

    If you’re interested, you can read my review here: http://killingclassicalmusic.com/post/2680416608/a-new-classical-music-experience-debuts

    Grant Charles Chaput

    • January 14, 2011 at

      As usual Grant, you are really paying attention. I admit I have not seen the HD theater events. But I can imagine, just as many people think hearing music on an iPod or computer is nearly the same as “live in person”, that those same customers will not care about the slight differences. Even if I hear the difference, most others may not, or may not care, instead eagerly attending the event of a “more famous” orchestra.

      Your point about quality is certainly valid. However, although we have a suburb orchestra here in Columbus, our hall’s acoustics are dreadful (it was built as a 30’s movie theater), so even a good performance suffers acoustically. In other words, our “live in person” shows may end up sounding about the same as a “less than live” theater HD show.

      As you see, many issues come into play, the most important being that people want to see something “famous” and not necessarily something “sonically real”.

  4. January 13, 2011 at

    David, this is a real concern. I think the solution for regional orchestras is to create an irresistible concert-going experience which includes pre- and post- concert add-ons which may feature food, drinks, conductor, musicians and other such enticements. The experience of a LIVE symphonic concert, presented by the community’s own orchestra, must become an exciting and necessary part of a city’s social life!

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